James Harden is an underrated NBA player. He’s a workhorse who successfully carries a heavy load, year after year. He continuously finds ways to tweak his game to find that little advantage that will help him be better every season. It’s that consistency that makes him one of the proven superstars in the game.
That same underrated consistency is what adidas brings to the Harden signature series. From the Vol. 3 last year, to the Vol. 4 this year, the Harden line remains a proven option for ballers. And just like they’ve done throughout his four sneakers, adidas has made little tweaks to match Harden’s on-court improvement.
1. Improved stability
The Harden Vol. 3 was by no means an unstable shoe. In fact, because of the forefoot band and lateral outrigger, it was one of most stable sneakers I’ve played in. But through minor design tweaks, adidas was able to improve that feature in the Vol. 4.
The elastic band from the Vol. 3 was retained, but in the Vol. 4, they moved it higher and made it slightly thicker. The now midfoot band provides additional support to the lacing system of the new Hardens. This feature covers most of the foot, securing it in place even before the laces have been tightened. When in use, it not only keeps the foot in place, but provides additional support to the mesh upper, especially on hard cuts.
Rather than simple lateral outriggers, the Harden Vol. 4’s overall base is much wider than last year’s sneaker. It actually reminds me of the Feet You Wear system of adidas sneakers in the 90s where the outsole follows the shape of a foot. Similar to the Dame 5, the Hardens’ wide base ensures that the shoe is always in contact with the court. I didn’t try any step backs, but whatever movement I made, my foot always landed securely.
The Vol. 4s also have a variable lacing system, a higher heel collar and a firmer heel cup. All of those minor tweak translate to a major improvement in the fit and stability of the new Hardens.
2. Surprising Lightstrike
I really liked how they implemented Boost in the Harden Vol. 3. It was comfortable and well-balanced. It was a great set-up that actually helped reduce the pain on my heels and knees. I thought they’d carry that set-up over to the Vol. 4s.
Instead, adidas veered to a totally new direction and decided to put a new cushioning system in the new model. This was my first time trying the Lightstrike foam and I was surprised by how they performed.
Lightstrike needed virtually no break in time for it to feel comfortable. The Vol. 4s felt plush right out of the box. That means that this new cushion provided even better impact protection as the Boost in the Vol. 3. The Lightstrike also felt good underfoot in landings, especially in the heel area where it’s slightly thicker than everywhere else.
What I was missing from the Vol. 3 was the responsiveness and feedback of the cushion. Lightstrike, while comfortable, didn’t have the same bounce back properties as Boost. The forefoot cushion which felt slightly thinner than the heel area, probably for improved court feel, wasn’t as bouncy as the Boost. But it still felt like you were playing on clouds, even if it was thinner than the heel. For those that want a light, well-cushioned ride, Lightstrike is for you.
3. Premium Materials
The Harden Vol. 3s felt premium. Even if the materials were mostly mesh and TPU overlays. The upper had multiple layers that hugged the foot nicely. The same premium feeling was carried over to the Vol. 4s, but this time they added premium materials as well.
The over-all look of the sneaker is improved by the materials used. The ‘Barbershop’ colorway I got featured a mesh upper with suede in the forefoot and heel. The suede added a nice touch to the sneaker, giving the look a contrast of textures. The silver hits in the lace holes, the shiny heel cup and the forefoot piping were not only made out of good materials, but also gave the sneaker a more premium look.
adidas worked with streetwear designer, Daniel Patrick to improve the design of the Vol. 4 and further capture Harden’s swagger in his sneakers. That’s why little details like the embossed three stripes in the barbershop colors, the small “VOL. 4” tag and the printing on the heel collar are all nice storytelling nods that add a pop of color, further contributing to the overall design.
The other colorways that dropped are also made of premium materials as well. The ‘Pink Lemonade’ has the same suede overlays as my sneaker while the ‘Candy Paint’ and “Cookies & Cream’ feature a knit-like upper. The Harden Vol. 4 colorways, all aim to mirror Harden’s personal style through the use of color and materials.